Warning signals beeped across the control centre panels of the Explorer. Suddenly called to an alert state of mind the Admiral and her officers scrambled. “It is a warning of an antimatter signature, travelling on a trajectory parallel to our own, dead ahead.” Louis Walsh reported from his station, as first officer it was his duty to report everything to the Admiral. “Is it the Harpys?” Admiral Franziska Hardwick clenched the armrests of her chair. Ever since the Horizon had first contact with the Harpys the leadership of the Explorer had dreaded that they might turn up in their wake.

“Negative.” Louis seemed puzzled for a moment. “According to the computer the signature resembles that of the Ark1.”

 

Approximate sensor readings of the object told the crew it was not all of Ark1 that was speeding through space, but only a remnant. Reclined in the chair of the briefing room Franziska studied the sensor readings, governors had been briefed and in a few moments a meeting was scheduled for the matter.

“Sensors indicate that the engine core and antimatter storage facilities had been blown off.” Gregory Illchiev, chief engineer for the past five years and antimatter propulsion enthusiast, reported. “Those parts flew off in irregular patterns, drawing a signature past it, this part only has the remaining radiation signature on it, but contains neither antimatter, nor engine parts.”

“Thank you.” Clearly noticing the disappointment in his voice, Franziska dismissed him. “According to the preliminary readings there is a slight possibility of survivors?” Alpha ring’s Governer Dean Stone interjected before the topic could be driven on.

“That is correct.” Franziska switched the displayed image with a wink, all present wore their glasses, observed the displayed data. “As you can see, preliminary sensor readings suggest that a large portion of cryogenic capsules, which were aboard the Ark1, are still where the original blueprints suggest. As I see it, this is a humanitarian rescue. Data also suggests that the remnant is slower than we are, estimated power reserves might last another fifty years, perhaps less, in no way can they reach RV-p296 alive though.”

Looking at Doctor Jason Charles who had spoken up, the round took a moments pause. It was his mother who had hatched the idea for a landing party on the rogue planet of Ericsson. Some forty years on she was still regarded as a genius for it, by most. Select few who had lost their family members and friends due to that mission hated her for it.

“So what exactly is it you are suggesting?” Governor Stone sighed, turning his glasses off, they gave him eye strain.

“We must dock it onto the Explorer if feasible. If not, dock a small craft with it and extract survivors.” Doctor Charles knew that parallels to his mother’s plan with Ericsson would be drawn.

On the displays of the glasses and tablets approximate maneuvers were displayed, along with the note that further readings of the Ark1 remnant would determine feasibility of all the plans.

“How long do we have to make the decision?” Andrea Yeoh, beta ring’s Governor too showed concern. “Limited forward sensor range means that the wreck is relatively close, it is suggested that the wreck is decelerating.” Gregory, although disappointed that no antimatter technology was supposed to be found, still was eager to board the ship and examine it. “While it is true that their momentum will carry them all the way to RV-p296, the speed of that journey can’t be maintained at ours. We too have to fire our drive every now and then to counteract friction. They can’t, even if someone is alive and kicking there.” He took a deep breath. “I’d say we have about a week until it is in range, it’ll be our companion for a time, until falling behind us.”

 

Sitting under his father’s favorite apple tree Jason was working on the feasibility studies for the Ark1 boarding, based on telemetry streamed to his glasses hourly. “Do you ever just sit down and enjoy the gardens?”

“Yes mom. But not now.” He smiled vaguely in her direction. Noticing her sad smile following his reply he turned the glasses off and took them from his face. “Yes, I enjoy them. From time to time there is a lot of work that needs my attention. I’m sure you can relate.”

Nye came towards him and leaned against the tree. “Your father would be disappointed if he knew you sat in his spot and didn’t enjoy the garden. If I were to tell him that is.” She winked. Jason rolled his eyes. “He knows, he was here an hour ago, using the same argument as you. He also asked me to tell you, that he will be home in time for dinner.” Although food was eaten at the dining halls, Jacob and Nye often met at home to go to their dining hall together. Somehow Jason admired that sort of romanticism in his parents. Most people, even in their generation, met in the dining halls for family dinner. Fathers and mothers flocked from their respective work, children from schools, or their work. “He also asked me to join, but I’m afraid I’ll be working.” Again Nye displayed a displeased smile.

“I shall try to open up the evening.” Jason added, turning his mother saddened smile into a satisfied one. Emotionally held hostage, by my own mother! A buzzing sound from his glasses drew his attention. “Telemetry of the Ark1 remnant!” He exclaimed, putting them on faster than Nye had ever seen anyone putting them on. “The Ark1?” Worried she let herself sink lower, sitting down next to him. For anyone who was old enough when the Explorer last had contact woth the Ark1, the mere mentioning of that ship’s name was a synonym for failure on a dangerous level.

I knew this day would come, fourty years ago when the Magellan probe first detected the radiation spike behind itself.

Nye sat down more comfortably.

“News isn’t out yet, but we have made sensor contact with a large remnant of the ship, supposedly no antimatter or propulsion technology is left, but we’re hoping to find survivors in cryogenic chambers. I proposed to dock with it, if necessary by using a small ship.” Memories of her proposal for landing on Ericsson rose in Nye.

Not all good.

“New telemetry suggests that the midsection of the Ark1 is a compressed mess of metal, aft section is blown off completely.” He commented on the readouts streamed to his glasses, more for thinking them over, than to inform his mother. “Forward section is damaged, but presumably intact, but it’s too early to tell.” He peered through his glasses, over to his mother.

Nodding with an understanding and regretting expression he took the glasses off. “Let’s go.” He sighed, tucking the glasses away before helping Nye to her feet.

 

Dinner went on as usual for Jason, his father Jacob spoke of the gardens he had worked on, his mother commented on their beauty as far as she knew them, since some were newly created in selected locations that had opened up upon restacking some storage rooms. Joan Charles, Jason’s little sister of nineteen, spoke of her day in school.

Feeling he had already spilled too much information about the Ark1 to his mother, Jason remained quiet. “How’s Daria?”

Almost choking on his food Jason looked at his father. “Fine. She’s fine.” Reaching for his cup, he breathed.

“Are you two still seeing each other?” Resenting his dinner participation, Jason nodded slowly as reply to his father’s inquiry, still sipping water he hoped to avoid further questions. He was thirty five years old, he didn’t feel comfortable talking about women to his parents. “Good.” Jacob exhaled, giving his son reason to put the cup down.

“You’re very quiet this evening.” Stating the obvious Joan leaned back in her seat. “Are you all right?”

“Fine. Just,” he paused looking around. Too many people were in the mess hall. “preoccupied from work. That’s all.” Casually he glanced at the time, displayed on a large analogue clock above the doors of the mess hall. “Speaking of Daria,” he wiped his mouth, took another sip of water, “I’m supposed to meet her in ten minutes, if you’ll excuse me.” Giving him a permissive wave of dismissal Jacob watched his son get up from the table and leave.

“I sometimes doubt he’ll ever give us grandchildren.” Shuddering after hearing her father’s words, Joan also left after being allowed to.

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